Our final 2020 Oscar predictions in every category

Kevin PolowySenior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
Yahoo Movies
<em>1917</em>, <em>Parasite</em>, <em>Judy</em> and <em>Joker </em>(Photo: Everett Collection)
1917, Parasite, Judy and Joker (Photo: Everett Collection)

This year, the Academy Awards moved up three weeks to this Sunday, and while that shift has made for a shortened and more hectic awards season, it hasn't exactly lived up to expectations in creating a more suspenseful Oscar race.

Like most years, there are heavy favorites in all four acting categories: SAG, BAFTA and Golden Globe winners Renée Zellweger (Judy), Joaquin Phoenix (Joker), Laura Dern (Marriage Story) and Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time in Hollywood) are all expected to leave with gold statuettes. If anything, the acting categories are arguably more predictable than ever.

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Thankfully, there remains some level of uncertainty when it comes to Best Picture and Best Director. Both are shaping up to be contests between Sam Mendes's long-take WWI thriller 1917 and Bong Joon Ho's beloved South Korean import Parasite. Read on for our final predictions in all 24 categories, including those pesky hard-to-call shorts.

Best Picture

Despite the shortened Oscar season, there have been plenty of momentum shifts. While Taika Waititi's "Hitler comedy" Jojo Rabbit won the Audience Award at the Toronto International Film Festival — a prize that kickstarted last year's eventual Best Picture winner Green Book's awards run — Martin Scorsese's decade-spanning mob drama The Irishman and Quentin Tarantino's slow-burn Manson Family murders revisionist thriller Once Upon a Time in Hollywood were considered the two top dogs for most of the fall.

The new year brought new favorites, though, with the breathtaking battle epic 1917 (which opened in December) catching fire after its surprising Golden Globes win, followed up with top prizes from the Producer's Guild (which has been a predictor of Oscar's Best Picture eight out of the past 10 years) and the BAFTA Awards. However, there are two reasons that Parasite can pull a Moonlight-esque upset. One, supporters are truly passionate for the dark, captivating and shocking class satire (Bong has risen to one-name status in film circles), which could help when it comes to the Academy’s unique and complex preferential balloting system. And two, the film already pulled off an upset by winning Best Ensemble at the SAG Awards, and the acting branch is the Academy's largest group.

Although smart money is on 1917, we're going with the underdog.

Nominees:
1917
Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Parasite

Prediction: Parasite
Don't be surprised by: 1917
Dark horse: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or Jojo Rabbit

Best Director

As you've certainly heard by now, the Academy failed to nominate a woman in this category, yet again. And while we thought Greta Gerwig's chances for Little Women would be elevated given the blowback the Golden Globes, Directors Guild and BAFTAs received for snubbing female filmmakers — the final Oscar list is not very surprising. Despite the presence of heavy hitters like Scorsese and Tarantino, the Academy tends to honor the filmmaker who executes the trickiest technical feats (see recent wins for GravityBirdman and La La Land), which would put DGA victor Mendes at the front of the pack for his masterfully filmed 1917. (Minor film nerd bone to pick: despite multiple media outlets describing the film as "one continuous take," there's a clear fade to black halfway through the film. So we should at least say 1917 was made to look like it was filmed in two continuous shots.)

Nominees:
Bong Joon HoParasite
Sam Mendes1917
Todd PhillipsJoker
Martin ScorseseThe Irishman
Quentin TarantinoOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood

Prediction: Sam Mendes, 1917
Don't be surprised by: Bong Joon Ho, Parasite
Dark horse: Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Actress

We were bummed not to see The Farewell's Awkwafina or Us's Lupita Nyong'o make the cut. (Does the Academy really hate horror?) Meanwhile, Cynthia Erivo, the only person of color in the acting categories, could become the youngest EGOT winner ever. But Renée Zellweger has seemingly had the Oscar sown up since her stunning portrayal of (and impressive singing as) an aging Judy Garland in the aptly titled Judy first premiered at the Telluride Film Festival in August. Her biggest competition comes from another Oscar alumna who disappears into a real-life role: Charlize Theron for her uncanny transformation into Megyn Kelly in Bombshell. It is worth noting that Olivia Colman (The Favourite) upset favorite Glenn Close (The Wife) last year after losing at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards, though Colman did win at the BAFTA Awards.

Nominees:
Cynthia ErivoHarriet
Scarlett JohanssonMarriage Story
Saoirse RonanLittle Women
Charlize TheronBombshell
Renée ZellwegerJudy

Prediction: Renée Zellweger, Judy
Dark horse: Charlize Theron, Bombshell

Best Actor

The Academy failed to nominate four of our favorite performances in this race: Taron Egerton in Rocketman, Eddie Murphy in Dolemite Is My Name, Christian Bale in Ford v Ferrari and Adam Sandler in Uncut Gems. (How you give the Oscar to Rami Malek for lip-synching as Freddie Mercury one year and then fail to even nominate Egerton for actually singing as Elton John the next is truly a head-scratcher.) And while this race was long considered to have two frontrunners — Joaquin Phoenix (Joker) and Adam Driver (Marriage Story) — it now looks clear that Phoenix is ready to soar with his first Oscar in four tries, becoming the second actor to win for the iconic comic book role after Heath Ledger’s Dark Knight turn. And after highly streamed speeches at the Golden Globes and BAFTA Awards, expect more fireworks from the podium on Sunday.

Nominees:
Antonio BanderasPain and Glory
Leonardo DiCaprioOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood
Adam DriverMarriage Story
Joaquin PhoenixJoker
Jonathan PryceThe Two Popes

Prediction: Joaquin Phoenix, Joker
Dark horse: Adam Driver, Marriage Story

Best Supporting Actress

Perhaps the biggest snub of Oscar Nominations morning was Jennifer Lopez's shocking miss for Hustlers, a nomination which was widely expected and would have netted the multihyphenate entertainer her first. J.Lo was not only considered a sure thing, but a possible winner. Her diss leaves us with an easy call here: Laura Dern has emerged as the odds-on favorite for her scene-stealing performance as a take-no-prisoners divorce lawyer in Marriage Story. It would mark Dern's first win in three nominations, having previously scored nods for Wild and Rambling Rose. One possible threat, though: Double-nominee Scarlett Johansson, who could be rewarded for also being a Best Actress contender for Marriage Story.

Nominees:
Kathy BatesRichard Jewell
Laura DernMarriage Story
Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit
Florence PughLittle Women
Margot RobbieBombshell

Prediction: Laura Dern, Marriage Story
Dark horse: Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

Best Supporting Actor

Fun fact: Tom Hanks's nomination for playing Fred Rogers in A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood is the two-time Oscar winner’s first in 19 years — the last coming in 2000 for Cast Away. Meanwhile, it's Irishman co-star Al Pacino's first nomination in a whopping 27 years – his first since he won gold for Scent of a Woman. Still, Brad Pitt, who is virtually a co-lead with Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, seems destined to win his first acting Oscar (he won Best Picture as a producer on 12 Years a Slave). We'll cosign Mandy Kaling's suggestion that supporting winners Dern and Pitt should celebrate with a date.

Nominees:
Tom HanksA Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
Anthony HopkinsThe Two Popes
Al PacinoThe Irishman
Joe PesciThe Irishman
Brad PittOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood

Prediction: Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Dark horse: Al Pacino, The Irishman

Best Original Screenplay

If there were 10 nominees for Best Picture, there is little doubt the Oscars would have followed the lead of the Producer's Guild and given the last slot to Knives Out, Rian Johnson's brilliantly crafted whodunit. So it's great to see the film — Yahoo Entertainment's No. 1 pick of 2019 — make the cut here… even if it doesn't stand much of a chance. This race comes down to  Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, Marriage Story and Parasite. Marriage Story scribe Noah Baumbach was left out of the director's race, so he could get recognized here, and the Academy clearly loves two-time winner Quentin Tarantino (Pulp Fiction, Inglourious Basterds). But again, there's so much love out there for the richly conceived Parasite, which just notched a WGA win, so the Academy could follow suit.

Nominees:

Sam Mendes & Krysty Wilson-Cairns, 1917
Rian JohnsonKnives Out
Noah BaumbachMarriage Story
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Bong Joon Ho and Jin Won Han, Parasite

Prediction: Bong Joon Ho and Jin Won Han, Parasite
Don't be surprised by:
Quentin Tarantino, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Dark horse:
Noah Baumbach, Marriage Story

Best Adapted Screenplay

Given her high-profile snubbing in the Best Director race, voters may rally behind Greta Gerwig, who could join her longtime partner Noah Baumbach on the winner's block (and in a helluva photo op). Taika Waititi received his first two Oscar nominations (for Screenplay and Best Picture) since 2005 (for the live-action short Two Cars, One Night) and it would not be shock to see him triumph here, especially after winning at the WGA Awards (and bonding with fellow victor Bong). With Jojo Rabbit, he adapted Christine Leunens's novel into an audacious, hilarious and poignant WWII comedy-drama.

Nominees:
Steve Zaillian, The Irishman
Taika WaititiJojo Rabbit
Todd Phillips & Scott Silver, Joker
Greta Gerwig, Little Women
Anthony McCarten, The Two Popes

Prediction: Taika Waititi, Jojo Rabbit
Don't be surprised by: 
Greta Gerwig, Little Women

Best Animated Feature

Aside from J.Lo, the second most surprising nomination snub had to be the omission of Disney's mega-hit franchise sequel Frozen 2 in this race, with voters instead opting for titles like I Lost My BodyKlaus and surprise Golden Globe winner Missing Link. Don't fret, though, Disneyphiles. Mickey should still land the W with Toy Story 4, the sequel we didn't know we needed so badly. (Seriously, it might be the best Toy Story yet.) That is, if it can beat out artier fare like Netflix's Klaus (which ruled the Annie Awards) and I Lost My Body.

Nominees:
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
I Lost My Body
Klaus
Missing Link
Toy Story 4

Prediction: Toy Story 4
Don't be surprised by: Klaus
Dark horse: I Lost My Body

Best Documentary Feature

The heavy favorite in the top non-fiction category was widely considered to be Todd Douglas Miller's remarkable archival moon landing retelling Apollo 11 — and it wasn't even nominated. (So no J.Lo or Apol-Lo.) The snubbing of Apollo 11 opened up a big lane for the Obamas-produced Netflix doc American Factory, an eye-opening, alternately hopeful and despondent look at the Chinese takeover of an Ohio manufacturing plant. The slow-burning Macedonian doc Honeyland, which is also up for Best International Film, could land this one, too, though.

Nominees:
American Factory
The Cave
The Edge of Democracy
For Sama
Honeyland

Prediction: American Factory
Don't be surprised by: Honeyland
Dark horse: For Sama

Best International Film

Poland (Corpus Christi), North Macedonia (Honeyland), France (Les Misérables), Spain (Pain and Glory) and South Korea (Parasite) are all represented in the category formerly known as Best Foreign-Language Film, which is one of the very easiest races to predict. Like last year with Roma, which was also in the Best Picture running, there's little doubt this statuette is going to Parasite.

Nominees:
Corpus Christi
Honeyland
Les Misérables
Pain and Glory
Parasite

Prediction: Parasite
Dark horse: Pain and Glory

Best Cinematography

Remember two years ago when it became a foregone conclusion that celebrated director of photography Roger Deakins would win his first Oscar (in 14 tries!) for Blade Runner 2049? It shouldn't be much of a fight for Deakins to lock in a second trophy in three years for his staggering work framing the extended takes of 1917.

Nominees:
1917
The Irishman
Joker
The Lighthouse
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Prediction: 1917
Dark horse: Joker

Best Film Editing

Those who felt The Irishman ran an hour too long may be wondering how much editing actually went Scorsese's epic mob story, but on the other hand, think again how much editing a 209-minute movie (by legendary three-time winner Thelma Schoonmaker) requires. Still, pundits are leaning toward Ford v Ferrari or Parasite. We'll go with the former, which took home the ACE Award for best edited comedy.

Nominees:
Ford v Ferrari
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Parasite

Prediction: Parasite
Don't be surprised by: Ford v Ferrari
Dark horse: Jojo Rabbit

Best Production Design

It's not every year we can say this, but Best Production Design has to be one of the most nail-biting Oscar races. How do you not give this award to Dennis Gassner and Lee Sandales for those astoundingly elaborate and huge sets designed for the 1917's soldiers to move through? Then again, Lee Ha Jun and Cho Won Woo literally built the Parks' sleek modern Seoul home in Parasite. And let's not forget the work done by Barbara Ling and Nancy Haigh in recreating 1969 Los Angeles for Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

Nominees:
1917
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Parasite

Prediction: 1917
Don't be surprised by: Parasite or Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Best Makeup and Hair

It's rare for a makeup artist to become a star in his or her own right, but two years after his astonishing Oscar-winning transformation of Gary Oldman into Winston Churchill for Darkest Hour, and with his latest masterwork turning Charlize Theron into Megyn Kelly for Bombshell, Kazu Hiro (a four-time nominee so good he got recognized for Norbit) is on his way.

Nominees:
1917
Bombshell
Joker
Judy
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Prediction: Bombshell
Dark horse: Joker

Best Costume Design

If there's one theme that you can suss out looking over the last five winners in this category — Black Panther, Phantom Thread, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Mad Max: Fury Road and The Grand Budapest Hotel — it's distinctiveness of style. There's not an obvious outlier in that regard this year, but the Academy's also proven they love a good period drama (Anna Karenina, The Young Victoria, The Duchess), so Little Women gets the edge.

Nominees:
The Irishman
Jojo Rabbit
Joker
Little Women
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Prediction: Little Women
Dark horse: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood or Jojo Rabbit

Best Score

In the only category this year you'll find cousins competing, it's 15-time nominee Thomas Newman (1917) against 20-time nominee Randy Newman (Marriage Story), alongside other heavy hitters like nine-time nominee Alexandre Desplat (Little Women) and 52(!)-time nominee John Williams (The Rise of Skywalker). But most experts are going with first-time nominee (and the category's only woman) Hildur Guðnadóttir for her ravishing and visceral work on Joker, which already netted her a Golden Globe.

Nominees:
1917
Joker
Little Women
Marriage Story
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Prediction: Joker
Don't be surprised by:
1917
Dark horse: Marriage Story

Best Original Song

You knew Bobby Lopez and Kristin Anderson-Lopez's inescapable power ballad "Let It Go" would be the runaway winner six years ago when Frozen dominated the zeitgeist. But this year Queen Elsa is up against Sir Elton, with John's Taron Egerton-crooned, Bernie Taupin-penned "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again" being the sole representation for the much-loved Rocketman. (We can understand how Egerton got edged out in Best Actor, but how could the film not make the cut in Costume Design??)

Nominees:
"I'm Standing With You," Breakthrough
"Into the Unknown," Frozen 2
"Stand Up," Harriet
"(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again,"
Rocketman
"I Can't Let You Throw Yourself Away," Toy Story 4

Prediction: "(I'm Gonna) Love Me Again," Rocketman
Dark horse: "I'm Standing With You," Breakthrough

Best Visual Effects

It's a battle of Disney box-office behemoths here, with the remix of The Lion King facing off against Marvel's Avengers: Endgame and Lucasfilm's Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker. Many pundits see voters choosing prestige over CGI with 1917, but we're seeing the photo-real four-legged creatures of Jon Favreau's Lion King (which just won top honors from the Visual Effects Society) follow in the pawprints of 2018's winner, The Jungle Book.

Nominees:
1917
Avengers: Endgame
The Irishman
The Lion King
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Prediction: The Lion King
Don't be surprised by: 1917 or Avengers: Endgame

Best Sound Editing

And now for your annual reminder about the difference between the two sound categories: Sound editing is the creation of nonmusical sound effects used in films (e.g., the screeching of tires in Ford v Ferrari, the lightsaber clashes in The Rise of Skywalker, etc.), while sound mixing is the blending and balancing all of the sounds in a film.

Nominees:
1917
Ford v Ferrari
Joker
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Prediction: 1917
Don't be surprised by: Ford v Ferrari

Best Sound Mixing

One of the geekiest elements of handicapping Oscar races is deciding whether you go with the same movie for both sound categories, or split the difference in hopes you get at least one win. (We do agree with New York Times carpetbagger Kyle Buchanan that the sound categories should be combined.) The categories have both gone to same film seven out of the past 10 years.

Nominees:
Ad Astra
1917
Ford v Ferrari
Joker
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

Prediction: 1917
Don't be surprised by: Ford v Ferrari

Best Live-Action Short

There is not a bad pick among this litter of inspired international shorts, from the tense Belgian thriller A Sister to thte somber Tunisian family drama Brotherhood to the unexpectedly touching New York-set comedy-turned-tragedy The Neighbors' Window. Saria may have the most depressing ending to any of the shorts (which is saying a lot), while Nefta Football Club has the most pleasing. Roll the dice with this one.

Nominees:
Brotherhood
Nefta Football Club
The Neighbors' Window
Saria
A Sister

Prediction: The Neighbors' Window
Don't be surprised by: Brotherhood
Dark horse: Nefta Football Club or Saria or A Sister

Best Animated Short

There's also a lot to love among the short-form 'toons. Sony's sweet Girl Dad tale Hair Love or the charming Pixar-affiliated Kitbull (you can't go wrong with an old cat-meets-dog buddy pic) could get boosts from a largely American voting base, which most experts are betting on. But among the more artful international offerings, Memorable sticks out in our minds for its awe-inspiring, surrealistic animation and tender tale of an aging couple dealing with the painter husband's dementia.

Nominees:
Dcera (Daughter)
Hair Love
Kitbull
Memorable
Sister

Prediction: Memorable
Don't be surprised by: Hair Love or Kitbull

Best Documentary Short

And finally, the category with the most depressing subject matter of all. Four of the five nominees here deal in some way with kids in peril, from South Korean teens drowning on a capsized ferry boat in the devastating In the Absence to Afghan girls finding solace from bombings in Learning How to Skateboard in a Warzone to the shocking phenomenon of refugee children in Sweden going into Resignation Syndrome, or trauma comas, in Life Overtakes Me. At least Walk Run Cha-Cha has some dancing.

Nominees:
In the Absence
Learning How to Skateboard in a Warzone
Life Overtakes Me
St. Louis Superman
Walk Run Cha-Cha

Prediction: In the Absence
Don't be surprised by: Learning How to Skateboard in a Warzone
Dark horse: St. Louis Superman

Predictions for major categories updated from original article published Jan. 13, 2020.

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